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As Classes Move Online, Austin ISD Closes School Buildings Indefinitely

The empty hallway at Dawson Elementary
Gabriel C. Pérez
Dawson Elementary School and other AISD buildings will remain closed indefinitely because of the coronavirus pandemic.

School buildings will remain closed for an "indefinite period of time," Austin Independent School District Superintendent Paul Cruz announced Friday.

"This extension to the previously announced closure is a cautious and necessary action considering our wide-ranging community efforts to combat the COVID-19 outbreak," he wrote in a letter to parents and teachers.

Classes resume Monday in a digital format, but there is no uniform way students will be taught; it will be up to each school and teacher. Teachers can use Zoom video conferencing or online learning programs schools had already been using.

Lisa Goodnow, associate superintendent of academics and social emotional learning, says the district is figuring this out as it goes. She says parents and students should treat Monday like the first day of kindergarten or when they started high school, when they had to learn new routines and systems.

She said flexibility is the biggest goal right now.

Some students, previously confined in a physical classroom, may “go leaps and bounds ahead in ways that we didn’t really know," she said. "Then you’ll have other students who have been through so much crisis and trauma that we’re not going to even talk about academics right at first.”

Goodnow says students will be able to work at their own pace in many instances. For example, a high school teacher could upload a lecture and the students would be able to watch it on their own schedule.

AISD has been delivering Chromebooks and Wi-Fi hotspots to middle- and high-school students who don't have the technology at home. The district will also put Wi-Fi hotspots on school buses that will park in various neighborhoods where students need internet access.

Akweta Hickman, executive director of special education, said schools closing for a global pandemic is unprecedented. She said the district sent courses to teachers Friday on adapting special ed students’ individual education plans.  

The school board will decide Monday whether to continue to grade students on an A-F scale or if classes will be considered pass/fail.

How will parents know if a student will be held back or graduates to the next grade? AISD says that won’t be decided until teachers and students are able to reconvene.

Got a tip? Email ClaireMcInerny at Follow her on Twitter @ClaireMcInerny.

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Claire McInerny is a former education reporter for KUT.
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